My bodyweight is higher than the charts say it should be. It has been my entire adult life and most of my childhood too. For too many years I struggled with that fact. I dreaded the yearly weight checks in school. I remember when I learned it wasn’t cool that my thighs touched. Any number of diets (the verb) were recommended to me. I’ve been gently encouraged, “You look like you’ve lost weight.” I’ve been punched in the gut, “I’m going to break up with you unless you start losing weight.” I’ve even been gifted books about my metabolism. I’ve struggled.
Like many people who believe we should weigh less, I’ve tried many things. I’ve eaten less. I’ve eaten better. I’ve worked out more. I took the supplements and went to the meetings. I’ve struggled in all the normal ways. Sometimes things have worked. I’ve weighed less. I’ve never weighed what that damn chart says I should, though. But, I have weighed less. What I discovered, though, after many years of trial and error is that weight does not correlate with contentment in my life. So, now my struggle is different.
Through all of the mental, emotional, and physical battling, I fought to see me as more than the fat laden body so many others seemed to be focusing on. I wrestled with the beliefs in my head that I was unworthy of love, even from myself. Family and friends did seem to care about me so why did I have such a hard time? I grappled with the notion, that seemed to be all around me, that in order to be happy, whole, enough – I needed to weigh less. Even though that’s what I kept hearing and telling myself, it didn’t sit right with me.
A few years ago, when I had that realization that being satisfied with my life was not connected to my scale, I made some decisions.
- My goals would not be weight related.
- I would focus on the things others see in me until I could start seeing things I liked in myself.
- I would accept compliments graciously.
- I would learn to love me, regardless of the size on my jeans.
I did these things. I consciously stopped negative thoughts when I realized they were there. I replaced them with positive strokes. I dressed the body I had. I paid attention to the whole of me. I found ways to refine my skills, make use of my talents, and feel good about my accomplishments. I nurtured my spirit.
I found that I liked me. Woo hoo! And I found this with no idea how many pounds are on my frame.
I say all this to tell you that I am and always will be a work in progress. I think that’s ok. Better than that, I think that’s good. I like that I’ll always have room to grow and be more. As an ongoing evolution, I’m now reserving the right to add to my outlined, intentional tenets. Here’s my newest addition.
- I will not absorb other people’s assumptions.
People assume I want to be skinnier. With such a culturally wide focus on what bodies look like, I understand. I don’t even hold it against most people. (The only ones I do are the ones like that ex-boyfriend who use social norms as weapons.) I honestly think most people who find a way to say something to me about my body are trying to be helpful. They just don’t know that I don’t need help with my body. I will eat how I chose to, sleep well, throw up my jazz hands, and whatever else strikes my fancy. And whatever those things do to my body – they do.
I made this new rule after seeing memes of Pooh bear feeling like he wasn’t ready for swimsuit season. I made it after seeing corsets that are supposed to train our waists to be tiny. I made it because the holidays are here and the jokes and ads have already started to make their way into our worlds, saying how we’re going to “set our scales forward 10 pounds” and similar nonsense. I made it after being asked if I was interested in learning more about energy drinks, supplements that allow me to eat what I want and not absorb anything, wraps that will help me be less lumpy (or something – I was only half listening), and creams that will reduce my wrinkles. The straw that almost broke the camel’s back were the meal replacement drinks. I know a lot of people who like them. I get it – they’re easy. They are losing weight that they want to. I hear they even taste good. Everyone is entitled to their own paths and I’ll be happy for you if you’re happy for you. I don’t want to drink shakes for meals. Or take anything that makes me not absorb my food or cinch here or smooth out there.
I like the story my rippled skin tells. I like the smile lines around my eyes. I like the tummy that my youngest pats when he cuddles with me. I like the shoulders that my daughter leans her head against. I like the hips that my husband puts his hand on. Heck, I like everything my husband puts his hands on. I like my body. I like me.
With all these personal offers and all the ads and memes and everything everywhere – television, magazines, social media – I started to wonder if I should like me. I even saw my first post about New Year’s resolutions this week. It was about dieting. (Surprise!) We’re already supposed to plan on feeling bad about ourselves in a month and a half.
It’s been a while since such outright negative thoughts about my body have crept into my head, but those doubts were back last week. I looked in the mirror and wondered if my fat rolls, saggy skin, stretch marks, skin tags, unshaven legs, and thin hair were things I needed to be dissatisfied with.
I decided they weren’t.
Just because others make assumptions does not mean I need to be someone I’m not. And who I am is an emotionally driven, strong, intelligent piece of art. Other people’s assumptions do not need to rattle around in my head. I’d rather spend my energy on loving, considering, and inspiring. Assumptions made have nothing to do with my joy. My fulfillment in life is about my relationships, my acceptance, and my confidence.
When the chiropractor tells me I seem thinner and asks how much I’ve lost, I just shrug. I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m not trying to be snotty and I’m not in denial of what my body looks like. I’m just content with who and what I am.
In this season of excess, stress, food, and occasionally friends and family with outspoken opinions about your life – whether it’s your looks, health, marital status, pregnancy status, job status, or something else that’s none of their business – let their assumptions be their assumptions. They say nothing about you. Declare to yourself what does say something about you and live that life. Love that person.